Cade Cavalli, RHP, WAS

When do the numbers not tell the whole story? When they describe Cade Cavalli.

Video courtesy of NextGen Nats
  • Born: August 14, 1998
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’4″, 230-lbs
  • Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Oklahoma

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

When I first started analyzing minor leaguers, I was told in no uncertain terms not to scout the stat lines. That well-meaning advice is fine, as it goes. Yes, listen to scouts first. Yes, don’t take the numbers at face value, but look behind the numbers to get the real story. Well, here’s an excellent example of why just looking at the numbers is not enough.

Cade Cavalli was drafted in the lost year of 2020. When he started to play professionally in 2021, he was a 22-year-old college graduate who should dominate High-A. He did. Absolute dominance.

Then he gets promoted to Double-A, and his Ks are still fantastic, but his walks almost double, and now his WHIP and xFIP are no longer Excellent.

Then he gets promoted to Triple-A, and it all goes to pieces. Strikeouts rotten, K%-BB% rotten, xFIP really not good, and the WHIP is as ugly as all get out.

So what happened in Triple-A (other than the commendable promotion of two levels in a single season up to the highest levels of the minor leagues)? Let’s break out his six starts for Rochester:

  1. @Syracuse Mets, 3.0 IP, 3 K, 1 BB, 0 HR, 5 H
  2. Worcester, 6.0 IP, 4 K, 3 BB, 0 HR, 5 H
  3. @Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 6.0 IP, 4 K, 5 BB, 0 HR, 8 H
  4. Buffalo, 5.0 IP, 4 K, 1 BB, 0 HR, 6 H
  5. @Worcester, 4.0 IP, 8 K, 0 BB, 2 HR, 7 H
  6. Scranton/Wilkes, 0.2 IP, 1 K, 3 BB, 0 HR, 2 H

Frankly, that’s not as bad as his pitching line looked. He struck out 3, 4, 4, 4, 8 batters in those first five games, and that’s not bad. He walked 1, 3, 5, 1, 0 in those five, with three of those games being just fine. He allowed no HR except for game 5, and that’s a trend with Cavalli.

No, it’s the hits that doomed his WHIP. He gave up 5, 5, 8, 6, and 7 hits in those five games. Is that a trend with him? Nope. In High-A he gave up 24 hits in 41 innings. In Double-A he gave up 39 hits in 58 innings. Only in Triple-A did he give up more hits than innings (33 in 25 innings), but everywhere else he gives up considerably fewer hits.

That Triple-A line was a short sample where the hits just got through, at the end of a long first professional season, against the best hitters in the minors. Not something to worry about.

Not a big platoon split here. His WHIP floats around, but his strikeouts are good against both.

The Scouts

Warnings

Well, it would be nice to see him dominate Triple-A before we get too carried away.

The walks could come down before he reaches his ceiling.

Conclusion

Did you see me talk about his strikeouts? His 175 Ks led the minor leagues.

Did we talk about his fastball yet? It’s a high-90s (occasionally 100 mph) screamer that is double-plus (scout talk for top of the scale).

He also has a slider, a curve, and a changeup in his arsenal, with that slider in particular being a second plus pitch. And the curve and the changeup are both already average.

He just needs to work on his command and control to become a top-of-the-rotation anchor. Well, he’s only 23 now, so he has time. Expect a Triple-A assignment, and then perhaps a mid-season call up. And temper your expectations until the control settles down. But once it does, look out!

And the next time you see a whole bunch of red in a pitching line, look deeper.

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